Monday, June 4, 2007

Safety - Is it on your mind?

Chuc Coulter of Boise wrote a letter to the Idaho Statesman. It appeared in print on June 3, and went like this:

"The month of May was proclaimed by Gov. Butch Otter to be Motorcycle Awareness Month ... You probably saw and heard the media messages ... Look out for motorcycles, avoid collisions, prevent injuries and deaths.

"And what happens during the month of May? We have motorcyclists going out riding and killing themselves and their passengers. What have we learned? Maybe it's not the other motorists who need to be looking out for motorcyclists. Maybe what we learned is that motorcyclists need to learn to ride responsibly and safely."

Well-said, Chuc! I agree 100%.

Chuc is doubtlessly responding to these stories:

- Driver John Patrick Brown, 42, of Boise, and passenger Andrea Louise McGuier, 24, of Nampa, both died from blunt force trauma after the motorcycle they were riding hit some construction equipment on a closed section of Cloverdale Road.

- Investigators say Jeffrey Rand [deceased], 25, was driving a 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle at a high rate of speed at 6:49 p.m. when he lost control of his motorcycle and hit a guardrail just off the eastbound lanes of I-84 near the Broadway Avenue interchange.

- A 26-year-old Nampa man died in a motorcycle accident in rural Canyon County. [He] was riding in a group of four motorcyclists on Map Rock Road about a half mile west of Highway 45 when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed at about 3:30 p.m., according to the Canyon County Sheriff's Office.

If I could talk common-sense to my fellow motorcyclists, here's what I'd say. (Unfortunately, how "common-sense oriented" is a guy who's riding a motorcycle with his do-rag instead of a helmet, or with backwards baseball-cap, shorts, and flip-flops?)

It's convenient to blame the other guy for motorcycle accidents. And indeed, we hope all roadway users are paying attention, and have the skills necessary to avoid accidents. But consider...
- Almost half (46%) of fatal motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle.
- 32% of fatally injured motorcycle operators were legally intoxicated.

Whenever the topic of motorcycle safety comes up in public, the topic of helmets invariably follows.

You might think it's nobody else's business, whether or not you wear a helmet.

WRONG! If you ride on public roads, you subject yourself to the rules and regulations governing that use, including speed limits, seat belts, and helmets.

I'm glad that here in Idaho, we adults are treated as such, and get to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. But please realize that it's not cast in stone. Us old-timers know that helmets have been required in the past... and can again be required in the future. The law can change, and if there's enough public outcry, or pressure from the Feds, the law will change. Don't become a statistic for mandatory helmets! Every unhelmeted motorcycle fatality is ammunition for the nannies.

Of course, if you go out there and mash your unhelmeted head, and it doesn't kill you but rather turns you into a Medicaid-supported, diaper-wearing vegetable, eating dinner through a tube, that's even worse. Because then the nannies can point out how you've become a burden to the state. And taxes are everybody's business.

My advice... exercise your right to choose by being responsible and choosing to wear a helmet. Furthermore, choose to devote 100% of your skilled, trained, un-distracted, un-impaired attention to riding, when engaged in that enjoyable pastime. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.


db said...

Uh, thought I'd stray over here to see if you had seen this yet, Bikeboy:

Five injured in crashes during Oregon-Idaho motorcycle rally

Not making an editorial comment here, just thought it added to your post.


Bikeboy said...

Thanks, db! I noticed that, allright. (And it's a joy to know that somebody - particularly somebody whose opinion I respect - read my m/c-oriented rant, and responded.)

Sometimes I start wondering if a bunch of motorcycle riders subscribe to the Travis Tritt "ten feet tall and bulletproof" theory. They sure don't give it the attention it merits.

db said...

We own 5 bikes, one motor-scooter, and no motorcycles. And at the risk of sounding biased, there's this:

My wife is a physical therapist. She works with patients from the Emergency Unit. She sees a lot of head injuries. Not from bicycling. From motorcycles. And ATVs. And equestrians. (In that order.)

I know this is only anecdotal evidence, but it's there. A helmet helps - A LOT. It may not prevent broken extremities, or even paralyzing neck/spinal injuries, but they help in the case of head injuries - no matter what you're riding.